“Tran Duc Thao” Documentary film – European Film Festival 2014

“Tran Duc Thao” Documentary film

Hoa Sen University, Ho Chi Minh City – June 24th 2014

The documentary film is about the life of Mr. Tran Duc Thao (1917 – 1993), a Vietnamese philosopher in the early 20th century. His hometown is in Bac Ninh Province. He was a descendant of the honorable Tran Dynasty in Vietnam.


Tran Duc Thao studied and grew up in Hanoi. He was a beneficiary of the French education in Vietnam during the French colony. Grew up from Buoi high school, he passed the baccalaureate and then went to France for his higher education. In France, he was a valedictorian in Master of Philosophy of University of Ulm. At this school, he had some academic activities with famous French intellectuals, such as the dialogue with Jean Paul Sartre on existentialism. Besides study and research, he also strongly participated in the struggle movement in France,  fighting for the rights for Vietnam. He was imprisoned by the French government in a short time due to taking part in such movements. Owing to those political activities, he met some Vietnam’s politicians, including Mr. Ho Chi Minh. With these relationships, he came back to Vietnam to participate in Viet Minh organization, who was at that time primarily active in the North of Vietnam in order to fight against the power of France in Vietnam.

Coming back to Vietnam, he actively participated in the activities of Viet Minh, such as developing Marxist theories, teaching Viet Minh’s officers, training many revolution theorists for Viet Minh. After the battle of Dien Bien Phu, France and Viet Minh had a negotiation. Geneva Accords 1954 was then entered into, which divided Vietnam into two separated zones by the 17th parallel. Together with Viet Minh, Tran Duc Thao returned to Hanoi and helped the Northern government rebuilding the national higher education system. He involved in teaching and management at Hanoi University of Pedagogy.

This period of time in Hanoi saw a movement of the intellectuals for democracy, social and academic freedom. This movement was called “Humanism – Works of Beauty” (“Nhân văn – Giai phẩm”). Thao had several articles published on the Humanism. Therefore, he was accused of De Tu movement, denounced in the university and prohibited from teaching, only permitted to do research. In the meantime, there was a range of criticism from other cultural management agencies of the government, who blamed the intellectuals heavily for the movement of “Humanism – Works of Beauty” due to its request for intellectual independence from politics.

Since then, his life became more difficult. He had to move to live alone in a small dorm. With the physical hardship and spiritual deprivation, Tran Duc Thao was likely a prisoner confined and isolated in the society. Even so, he continued to live the quiet and solitude life of a scholar, continued writing his planned books. By 1991, he was sent back to France and met his old French friends. Two years later, he passed away quietly in Paris.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *